After almost four months of lockdown, high streets which were almost completely unrecognisable during the pandemic are slowly coming back to life, with shops – and now bars, restaurants and pubs – reopening. Charity shops, it seems, are being left behind.
Although some charity shops are undergoing a phased reopening of their stores, fear of catching the virus has meant they are struggling to find the staff to reopen.
Volunteers reluctant to return
Save the Children, one of the many charity shops on Chiswick High Road, have 3,500 volunteers across the UK, many of whom are ‘elderly’. This has meant they are reluctant to return to work.
Paula, the store-manager of Cancer Research, told the Chiswick Calendar that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on her volunteer base. She has six regular volunteers who she relies on to keep the shop running. So far only two of them have returned.
“I’ve told them that we’ve got cough guards, screens, sanitiser, gloves, masks – full PPE – but they still aren’t sure.”
She said it wasn’t just individual reluctance but a general pressure from other members of their families preventing them from returning to stores.
“I have one volunteer who is very young but her family believe it’s too early for her to come back. I’m just hoping they’ll all come back – but we live in a new world now”.
Another one of her volunteers, who is over the age of 70, has said that her family aren’t happy with her going back to work, as she has spent the last three months shielding.
Foreign workers yet to return
Fara, in Turnham Green Terrace, helps young and disadvantaged people in Romania. They get many of their staff from overseas and are finding that some of their volunteers have chosen to go home to be with their families abroad and have not yet returned to Britain.
Oxfam has released a statement appealing for new volunteers: “each shop relies on a team of more than 30 volunteers to operate – and with many volunteers still shielding, the charity is calling for new recruits.”
It’s not all bad news, however. Shelter, on Chiswick High Road, have had no issue persuading their volunteers to come back to work.
The store manager of the Chiswick branch of Shelter has said that almost all of her workforce have returned, despite most of them being in vulnerable categories.
“Absolutely they’re coming back! We’ve got a great team here and we keep them safe.”
Shelter, and most other charity shops attempting to reopen, are following Covid-secure guidelines. Shelter are providing volunteers with full PPE and they have also implemented a one-way system in their stores, ensuring that volunteers and shoppers follow a two-metre distancing rule. They also provide hand sanitiser on entry and quarantine all donations for 72 hours.
She has also highlighted a new group of volunteers – the furloughed work force. She has quite a few new volunteers who have been furloughed over lockdown and so are ‘happy to help.’
‘At the moment, these new starters are helping two to three times a week, but when they go back to work I think this will decrease.’
If you are interested in volunteering, see our Volunteering Directory.
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